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NCAA 2012 Division I Wrestling Brackets And Who To Look Out For

AP Images - Bubba Jenkins was the talk of the tournament with his shocking pin victory over David Taylor in 2011 via <a href="">NCAA</a>
AP Images - Bubba Jenkins was the talk of the tournament with his shocking pin victory over David Taylor in 2011 via NCAA

March Madness is underway and while the focus from most media outlets will be on NCAA basketball, Bloody Elbow is more interested in power-slams than slam-dunks as it aims to bring you coverage of the 2012 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship.

Taking place at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, the tournament kicks off this Thursday on March 15 and goes through to the finals on Saturday March 17. For those fortunate enough to live in the USA, the ESPN TV network is expected to include coverage from the mats via ESPN 3 and ESPNU, which are also available as a live stream via For those outside the USA, reduced coverage is expected to be available through and

The brackets for the tournament have been out for a little less than a week now and can be viewed as a pdf courtesy of - The Official Website of USA Wrestling.

Here's a look at some of the wrestlers worth keeping an eye on this week.

Name: Matt McDonough
Weight: 125lbs
College: Iowa
Season Record: 31-1
Tournament Seed: #1

The 2010 NCAA Div I champion, McDonough fell short of the title last year as he faced the unstoppable, inspirational Anthony Robles of Arizona State University (ASU) in the finals. With a near perfect season record and the top seed going into this weeks competition, McDonough has to be considered the favourite to win this year.

Name: Jordan Oliver
Weight: 133lbs
College: Oklahoma State
Season Record: 24-1
Tournament Seed: #1

Last year's winner at 133lbs, Oliver looks to make it two in a row as he enters the tournament as the number #1 seed. Oliver brings an intense attitude to the mats and is always fun to watch and reminds me a bit of a mini-Cain Velasquez. Oliver has at least another year of eligibility and may have Olympic aspirations for 2016.

Name: Kellen Russell, Montell Marion
Weight: 141lbs
College: Michigan, Iowa
Season Record: 28-1, 27-3
Tournament Seed: #1, #3

Although the 2011 champion at 141lbs, the semi-finals match between Russell and Montell Marion (Iowa) was rife with controversy as a vocal contingent believed Marion was screwed out of points for two takedowns in the first over time period, enough to win him the match when time was up. Neither was scored and Russell went ahead to complete an undefeated season, the first and only time in his career thus far. Marion is the #3 seed this year and won't get to face Russell unless both can make it to the finals in what many should expect to be an explosive showdown. Marion will have to get past #2 seed Kendric Maple (Oklahmoa) should they meet in the semi-finals before he can settle the score with Russell.

Name: Frank Molinaro
Weight: 149lbs
Penn State
Season Record:
Tournament Seed: #1

The NCAA Div I runner up in 2011, this 3 time All American likely has his final chance at a championship title this year. Molinaro lost to Kyle Dake (Cornell) last year and was completely dominated by Dake who has since moved up a weight class. Nicknamed 'Gorillahulk', Molinaro has a punishing, clubbing style as he likes to look for snap-downs and grind his opponents. With the rigorous training of coach Cael Sanderson, and the iron-sharpens-iron mentality of his Nittany Lion teammates, I expect Molinaro to go through the tournament with a do-or-die ethos.

Name: Kyle Dake
Weight: 157lbs
College: Cornell
Season Record:
Tournament Seed: #1

Winning the 149lbs title last year by beating the above Frank Molinaro, Dake looks set to win his 3rd NCAA title and be one of the few to do so in 3 different weight classes by competing at 157lbs. Dake punished Molinaro with a Power Nelson Crossbody Ride racking up an impressive 8-1 points lead. Last year's 157lbs champion Bubba Jenkins has transitioned to MMA with a solid first round stoppage at Tachi Palace Fights a few months ago, and with Penn State's Paul Taylor himself moving up a weight class it would appear the road to the championship is wide open for Dake. Derek St. John (Iowa) finished 4th last year, but with two heavy hitters gone this time around, he may take full advantage of his #2 seed and work his way to the finals against Dake, outside of other upsets happening.

Name: David Taylor
Weight: 165lbs
Penn State
Season Record:
Tournament Seed: #1

The hometown audience in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania were utterly stunned last year when Taylor succumbed to a suicide cradle pin by Bubba Jenkins for the 157lbs title. By this point Penn State had amassed an unbeatable team points lead, but having their top prospect lose by fall to someone that Coach Cael Sanderson had cut from the team a year earlier was shocking. Now at 165lbs and without the Jordan Burroughs Juggernaut to contend with, Taylor is determined to capture an individual title and put to rest the specter of Bubba Jenkins, and show he might just be the best pound for pound Collegiate wrestler in the country.

Name: Edward Ruth, Nick Amuchastegui
Weight: 174lbs
Penn State, Stanford
Season Record: 26-0, 20-0
Tournament Seed: #1, #3

Last year's 174lbs champion Jonathan Reader has graduated to Freestyle wrestling and representing Team USA, with hopes of making the Olympic team next month at the trials in Iowa City, Iowa. In the tournament's bloodiest, gutsiest match Nick Amuchastegui lost on points to Reader in the finals as both suffered cuts at different points in the bout. Ed Ruth of Penn State finished 3rd, but as a freshman he scored two of the quickest pins of the tournament last year. Ruth has looked absolutely dominant this season, and with the experience of a sophomore going into this week and the skills to rack up team points by scoring falls, versus the gameness and never-say-die drive to make it to the finals of Amuchastegui, these two are the ones I look forward to watching in this division, though Oklahoma State's #2 ranked seed Chris Perry shouldn't be overlooked despite having a 25-7 record the previous season.

Name: Quentin Wright, Robert Hamlin
Weight: 184 lbs
Penn State, LeHigh
Season Record: 26-3, 29-1
Tournament Seed: #6, #2

Don't let their seed placement fool you, as both Quentin Wright and Robert Hamlin were last year's 184lbs finalists. Quentin Wright was one of Penn State's only individual champions last year, beating Robert Hamlin in a 5-2 decision. Wright also scored my favourite pin of the tournament with an incredibly cleanly executed cradle in the semi-finals. With their bracket placement, the best we can hope for is a rematch in the semi-finals this year between Wright and Hamlin, where the #1 seed Joe LeBlanc (Wyoming) will have to work his way to the finals on the other side of the bracket.

Name: Cam Simaz, Micah Burak, Christopher Honeycutt
Weight: 197 lbs
Cornell, Penn State
Season Record: 26-1, 19-4
Tournament Seed: #1, #11, #2

Last year's drama at 197lbs featured Kent State's Dustin Kilgore with a come-from-behind pin against Oklahoma State's Clayton Foster, when Kilgore re-countered Foster's defense of his single-leg takedown attempt with a cradle. Until the pin fall, Foster was leading 5-1.

Without either competing collegiately anymore -- Kilgore has Olympic ambitions for this Summer should he do well at the trials next month -- the drama may come should Cam Simaz and Micah Burak meet in the final, in a rematch from their EIWA Championship final earlier in the month. Both were the #1 and #10 seeds respectively and in that match, Simaz looked to score with High Single-legs, while Burak would counter well with the Whizzer and Front-Headlock. The first period went scoreless, and Murak's aggressive defense meant Simaz wasn't going to have an easy time of it.

Simaz is still the odds on favourite to win his division, but Murak might be somewhat of a dark horse especially considering the Cael Sanderson coached team he has behind him. #2 seed Christopher Honeycutt (EDIN) is perhaps a safer bet as to who might meet Simaz in the final, but you never can know. #7 Mario Gonzalez is also a name worth keeping an eye on and might surprise a few people.

Name: Zachery Rey, Ryan Flores
Weight: 285lbs
Lehigh, American
Season Record: 22-2, 17-0
Tournament Seed: #4, #1

Zach Rey is in his final year of collegiate competition having won the NCAA Championship last year against Ryan Flores. Both were similarly ranked last year, and both had a finals win apiece with Flores beating Rey at the EIWA Championship final, and Rey getting the win at the NCAA's.

Earlier this month, Flores beat Rey again at the EIWA Finals, but due to the bracket structure and seeding for this years NCAA's, the best we can hope for is a semi-finals showdown. If the semi-finals features and is won by either of these two, it almost seems a certainty that the winner will go on to take the title in the final. Rey can also sometimes be fun to watch, ragdolling and bear mauling his opponents should he get the opportunity to through a series of takedowns, slams and trips.

Think I've left anyone out worth mentioning? Got the inside scoop on some of this year's participants? Let us know in the comments.